Sunday, February 26, 2012

Meeting Yet Another Deadline

Years ago I started the tradition of giving my husband a small quilt top for Valentine's Day, and this year I almost broke the tradition. The 14th sneaked up on me, but luckily I only give him a top. So here is his gift for 2012.
I was trying to do some improvised piecing for the background, but unfortunately, I have been quilting so long, the rows turned out straighter than I wanted them to be, other than a decided downward tilt to the middle three. Even improvisation needs a bit of planning and adjustment and I was trying to work too quickly. Tom, of course, insists that he loves it so I am not sure whether to try again at the background before the quilting. But I will have plenty of time to decide since I need to finish up some other projects before I quilt this one.  The size right now is about 14" by 18".

And if you are still with me, thanks for the company.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Playing in the Snow

Back in December when our local challenge group got together, we not only got to see how everyone interpreted the first challenge, but we also learned what our next challenge would be: using curved flying geese in a composition of our own choosing. Since I have been using a more free-form approach to creating a quilt in the past couple of years, I decided to combine this more structured element with something that was very unstructured. I have also become fascinated with finding ways to create texture and so thought this was the perfect opportunity to try a totally new technique--just scrunching and folding a piece of fabric to see the patterns that all these scrunches and folds would generate. Easier thought about than done, as I found out.

Like so many of us across the US, we have had very little snow this winter, and I find myself missing that magic transformation as the familiar colors and shapes and shadows of the landscape disappear--so cliched yet still so beautiful. So I went about creating some of my own, and my early visions of this piece involved the drifts and textures of a snowy field.

I paper-pieced my flying geese in the icy blue colors of a winter creek--actually the winter color of the creek on our property is icy brown from all the mud this year, but blue is more poetic--and sewed them to a plain white piece of fabric that would be the foundation piece for the scrunches. Now, for some reason, I wanted the snow to cross the geese at one point and that made my scrunching a whole lot more difficult since I had to begin sewing down the to-be-scrunched fabric around the geese with an estimated appropriate amount left free to scrunch as the snow crossed the creek. But after that it was pure play.  And I had to keep the judgmental side of my brain tuned only to positive comments since the piece looked fairly strange for a good while.  I had thought about putting fusible web on the back side of the fabric so it would be easier to hold it in place but decided that I could easily hold too much in place at once with a permanence I would have to live with.  So I used judicious pinning and ironing of folds as I worked my way down, learning as I went how to shift the wrinkles to create little areas of pattern.  I think it's time for a photo:
The machine quilting that held the scrunches in place were tricky as well since I needed enough stitching to hold the fold in place but not so much to make it entirely flatten out.

I added a golden sky and a glittery sun of two different layers of fused organza and I'm still not sure it works, but at one point I was sure it wasn't working at all (couldn't keep that frowning judge quiet for long) so not being sure is progress. Ultimately, I did have fun Playing in the Snow (and that's the name of this quilt) as I intentionally caused those puckers quilters try to avoid.

And if you are still with me, thanks for the company!

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Rewards of Wasting Time

I sometimes feel guilty about the time I spend on the Internet, particularly when I know I am putting off seeing if my great idea for solving a design problem is really going to work or when some part of a quilt is not going well and I don't want to face up to it. But then I happen upon something like the works of Hugette Caland, an artist whom I had never heard of before, and I know all this wandering on the web might just be contributing something to my life. Her works are on canvas and linen and she uses pens to make tiny little lines that look like stitches surrounded by colors so rich you can lose yourself in them. But even her dark gray pieces are worth spending time with.

And thanks to Deb Lacativa for pointing me in her direction.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Dyeing in the Cold

Monday I broke another rule. In my online class with Elizabeth Barton I had gotten to the point where I was gathering fabrics for a project and realized I needed some other colors. The rules of hand-dyeing say that the room temperature should be in the seventies or above and, since my dyeing is done in an unheated basement, the only dyeing that gets done during the winter months in my house is snow dyeing. But now I really needed that fabric.

So I took a chance. Sun was pouring in the basement windows but the temperature was still in the fifties when I began. I did all the mixing and pouring in the basement but brought the fabric upstairs to batch overnight. And it worked!

I am of two minds about the results: it is wonderful that I have the fabric I need and that I now know I can dye all year round. But that forced vacation from dyeing was rather nice--one thing that couldn't find its way on the to-do list for a few months of the year. Nor during that time could I use dyeing as yet another way to put off making final design decisions.

But perhaps I should not stop analyzing, enjoy the fruits of my rule-breaking, and get back to working on my project. And if you are still reading, thanks for the company!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Warning: Rant Ahead

About a month ago I found myself in Joann's with Christmas money in my pocket. I finally decided on a large cutting mat that, combined with the current one I have, would cover a good portion of my cutting table and eliminate all the adjusting I have to do when cutting a large piece of fabric.  With many more errands to run, I grabbed a large (36"x 24") Olfa mat and headed for the checkout.

As I was unloading the car, I thought I smelled something strange but didn't pay much attention. As I put the mat on the dining room table, I realized what was smelling: the cutting mat was giving off a strong and unpleasant plastic odor. I tried to ignore it but an hour later I just couldn't stand it. The news on the Internet was not good as I found many people complaining about how the new mats smelled.

I have three other Olfa mats as well as a couple of tiny portable ones and none of them smell.  And, granted my memory is not the most reliable part of my brain, but I do not remember any of them smelling so much that I couldn't be in the same room with them.  Does anyone else remember an older mat smelling?

Another ominous sign: the FAQs section on the Olfa website actually addresses this problem.  There they reassuringly state that if you wash the mat in vinegar and water, the smell will disappear, although you may have to do this more than once. I tried three times and even soaked the mat for a couple of hours in the tub with the vinegar solution.  It still smells.

So I sat on the phone for fifteen minutes waiting for customer service and finally gave up and e-mailed Olfa that they had a very dissatisfied customer. A week and a half later, the day before I was going to make the hour-long trek back up to Joann's, I received a reply, saying that they apologized and, if I would tell them the exact size of the mat, they would replace it. So I sent the size to them, asked what I was to do with the old mat,  and ended my e-mail, saying, "And I assume the new mat will not smell."

Five days later I received yet another reply:

Unfortunately, all of our Olfa rotary mats have a strong plastic smell.

Olfa recommends that you use a mixture of warm water and dishwashing detergent to wash your mat.  Please use a lemon or other citrus based dishwashing detergent as this will nelp neutralize the smell.  You may have to wash the mat several times. 

You can also try laying the mat flat in a tub with a mixture of white vinegar and cool water; more white vinegar than water.  Allow the mat to soak in the mixture for about 30 minutes.  You may need to do this one more time.

Try wiping the mat down with Murphy’s Oil Soap or pine scented Lysol. 

I particularly liked the recommendation to use pine-scented Lysol.  You certainly would not smell plastic after wiping it down with that. I have not tried any more of these. And their other suggestion to just let it air out has not worked since it has been smelling up our basement now for a month. 

I am disappointed that a company that sold what I thought was a reliable, quality product no longer does and angry about the way they have handled this since I am not sure Joann's will take the mat back at this point. My reply to their last e-mail contained this question:  Why, if any of these methods work, don't you use them before you send out the mats to retail stores?

So that's the end of my rant, and, if you made it to the end with me, thanks for the company!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Poetic Piece

"On a Sligo Hill" and the rest of the Deep Spaces exhibit has now traveled to Texas, but while it was hanging in the state of Washington, it played a role in the annual celebration of the arts known as ArtsCrush Weekend in Edmonds.  As part of the festivities, a group of poets (Floating Mountain Poets--isn't that a great name?) wrote poems about each of the quilts and staged a poetry reading with the exhibit as a backdrop. Now I have never had anyone write a poem about one of my quilts so I felt a bit special when I found out this was going to happen--and curious about what kind of poem my quilt would generate. About a week ago, my curiosity was satisfied.

On a Sligo Hill
by Tom Nivison

From the giant's apron
Boulders tumbled
And rolled
And opened a road
Into the essence of earth.

Gathered round
To tomb and womb
The rock told tales
Of weight and waiting.

Deep beneath the dead
The white way rises
'Til it crowns
With stones and shells
The hollow hills
Of Sligo.

I'll have to see what other surprises this quilting journey has in store. And if you are still with me, thanks for the company.